By Stanley Koh
COMMENT You tolong saya, saya tolong you. You’ve probably heard this expression before, especially if you’ve been caught committing a traffic offence. It’s the opening line in a negotiation for a reduced fine, to be paid on the spot.
The English translation of the expression has lately been gaining currency, thanks to none other than Najib Tun Razak.
The Prime Minister was recently caught on video saying: “Let’s make a deal… you help me, I help you.” He was negotiating with voters in Rejang Park during the campaign for the Sibu parliamentary by-election. [see video here]
“Ini bukan tipu (This not a trick),” he said. “If you deliver me (BN candidate) Robert Lau on Sunday (polling day), on Monday I will ask for the cheque to be prepared.”
Pakatan Rakyat has cried foul, alleging that Najib was offering to buy votes and was therefore in violation of election laws. Yet, to the pussycat authorities, the PM has done nothing wrong.
So the pertinent question is: How much are the Chinese votes worth? The answer depends on whether you are the recipient or the giver. The cash value can range from RM3 million to RM160 million.
Normally, the infrastructure needs of the contested constituency would determine the quantum. However, the amount can also depend on the degree of Barisan Nasional’s desperation for an electoral victory.
In Sibu, as in Hulu Selangor before it, the desperation was high indeed, judging from the amounts offered. And from both by-elections, Najib and BN have found out that not every Chinese can be bought.
It must be hard for corrupt politicians to understand why money cannot buy a person’s integrity, dignity and pride. Perhaps the orientalists are right about the Chinese being inscrutable. One the one hand, they are stereotyped as worshippers of money. On the other, they are notoriously loyal to the traditions of the ancients.
The majority of Sibu’s Foochows and Hakkas have certainly made their ancestors proud. They chose righteousness and rejected dubious electioneering tactics.
The Sibu election results remind us of a legend that has been told for thousands of years. It is believed to have originated during the reign of the Zhou dynasty (551-479 BC), and the events were supposed to have taken place in one of the fragmented Seven Kingdoms.
The emperor had two concubines — Ha Ying Chun and Chung Mo Yin. He adored Ha for her stunning beauty, although she was ambitious and vindictive. She was the younger sister of the emperor’s prime minister and had set her mind to be crowned empress.
Chung was famous for her intelligence and good nature. But she was born ugly, with a birthmark covering half her face.
Both were indispensible to the Zhou emperor, but Ha of course spent a lot more time with him. He would summon Chung only when he needed to exploit her tremendous thinking skills for strategic solutions to problems of state.
He showered expensive gifts on Ha, but treated Chung shabbily despite her invaluable contributions to the state.
BN treats Chinese voters as if they are concubines like Chung, marginalised during good times but courted when their votes are needed.
Are the Chinese awakening to find that the rot has gone too deep and they can no longer stomach the politics of greed, corruption and unfair policies that have enriched only a few?
A stern reminder
Recent polls show that only 30% of Chinese voters support BN. Is this a stern reminder to the ruling regime, or merely a sign that the Chinese no longer like to be treated like concubines?
Will this voting trend of the Chinese community hold until the next general election or is it just a passing phase?
Whatever the case, Chinese Malaysians have spoken loudly through the ballot box. They are not content being treated like slaves dependent upon a hypocritical government that dictates their lifestyles, how much freedom they deserve, and the quota they deserve in education and business.
They want to put a stop to money politics and are pressing for reforms and a level playing field in politics.
In short, the spirit of the Chinese community for a two-party system is burning, and they will make known their feelings against an oppressive government that bullies the elected opposition.
Is ours a government that respects the right of voters to choose their representatives democratically? The answer is an obvious “No.” The Chinese are angered and frustrated by the arrogant and unethical ruling regime that has toppled a state government and is planning to topple a few more — with money, of course.
And they have had enough of official bigotry and insults against their community by individuals or groups acting as proxies to the regime.
If the regime continues to encourage party hopping, what is the use of elections? Why should voters respect a regime that does not respect their choices?
Any Chinese voter worth his rice porridge and claiming to inherit Chinese culture would not sell his soul to the devil, who has lately assumed the form of politicians making insincere promises.
Indeed, it is becoming clear that the Chinese are waking up to the importance of their vote; they are using it to weed out traitors and to punish racists and chauvinists. To them, a vote is more than a token that gives legitimacy to an elected body of representatives. Those elected should be behaving as servants and trustees of the people and not as warlords or masters. They elect their representatives not in order to give them bigger and bigger mansions, but in order for them to push for restoring the independence of all the estates of government.
The dramatic shift of Chinese votes to the opposition is expected to escalate at the next general election as long as an ineffective government continues to support racist and extremist organisations. And their anger will rise with every attempt to topple a state ruled by the parliamentary opposition.
The survival of BN and its component parties really rests in their own hands.
Stanley Koh is a Free Malaysia Today contributor.